déjà vu all over again

hello AMB readers! when we spoke last, it was all about Stravinsky with no sort of real discussion as to what was going on with me (i know you’re all so interested…) so i think it’s back to basics around here, today being the first day in MONTHS that my head has been above water, figuratively, of course.

this post relates to this very recent change in my life and something that’s been on my mind, at least for the last fifteen hours or so. after a really tough decision between Duke and Oxford, i decided to finish my PhD at Duke & i’ve been very happy here. the program has been exactly what i needed & i feel completely rejuvenated not to mention the fact that it’s been bound up with some very busy months for me. i wouldn’t classify where i am as completely starting over but it’s definitely not where i left off at Columbia, and i’ve made my peace with that. but there’s one thing i haven’t made peace with & i’m not sure that i ever will.

for all intents and purposes, i am a first year at Duke. but i am not a “first year.” 

that first year in quotes denotes a certain type of person who, usually, is at a certain place in their life and knows nothing about the ways of graduate school. (and yes i know this is a generalization, many people start a PhD at various places in their lives with varying life & school experiences) and when people who i do not know meet me and find out that i’m a “first year,” i get all of the typical first year questions: “how do you like graduate school?” “what are you working on?” “what’s your cohort like” all with an implication that is reflected vocally that we’re your elders and know the game and welcome to our world. well, that’s not me & i don’t want to be treated as such. now, i don’t hold it against those people for talking to me in such a way (not a lot), but i feel badly that i feel that i have to correct them, that i have to say, “well, i actually was in the PhD program at Columbia for three years & left to come to Duke.” because that whole sentence sounds so entitled. but it’s really not why i say it.

those three years were a struggle as anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows and i don’t want that time to be white-washed away because i’m now at Duke. i did coursework, got a degree, and took my comps. i TAed and taught my own classes. and all of that is really important to me. it doesn’t just disappear. 

so yes, i have to do a lot of that over again and yes, to a degree, it sucks (mainly time-wise, i think i’m doing all of it better the second time around) and i have no problem identifying myself thusly. but please understand that if i do mention my years at Columbia it’s because they still have some meaning. and also that i’m no spring chicken — i’m almost 30 with a dissertation on the horizon.

there’s a lot in my rear view mirror.

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